How the 1976 cheap fake UK Tudor ‘Big Block’ watch became a hot collectible

The swiss made replica Tudor is Rolex’s avant-garde younger sibling, the test bed where designers go to let loose with radical colourways or case materials. But in 1976, Tudor took a revolutionary leap with a chronograph that wore a remarkably plain face. Gone were the bright graphics of the “Monte Carlo” or the “Homeplate”; instead, the Chrono Time’s attractions were far more than cosmetic.

The Tudor Chrono Time fake with blue dial was the first Tudor chronograph to have a third sub dial – an hour counter. To this it added a date window – quick-set for the first time. But the real innovation was a winding rotor, this being the first self-winding chronograph from the house of Wilsdorf, a full 12 years before the Rolex Daytona went automatic.

The engine powering the Chrono Time was the Valjoux 7750, originally commissioned as a small, slim movement, but ending up as something of a beast at 30mm in diameter and 7.9mm in height. The size of the movement and the case that contained it gave rise to the collector’s name “Big Block”. Until the release of the Rolex Deepsea in 2008 it was the largest case that the umbrella company made, a size emphasised by the overhanging bezel and chunky crown guards. For those who like a reminder of Tudor’s familial links, the crown has the coronet and three dots of Rolex’s Triplock, while the case back also bears a coronet and the Rolex name.

Tudor’s choice of movement is curious, not due to any concerns over the 7750, a tried and tested chronograph widely used to this day – but due to the timing. The 7750 was launched in 1973 and initially sold well, but pressure from quartz led to its production being halted in 1975, the year before the Big Block’s arrival. Maybe Tudor fake didn’t know it would happen, maybe they cut a great deal on a job lot of poor-selling movements or maybe they had faith that it would be revived. Whatever the truth, the Big Block stood out as one of the few watches using this renowned calibre until the movement’s re-emergence in the 1980s.

More affordable than a Daytona, but with great Rolex heritage, the black bezel copy Tudor Big Block is a wise choice for the collector, although prices are rising quickly. A good example of a first series, with box and papers should be available for around £6,000. A note of caution though; the Big Block is… well… big so it tends to get knocked into things. Make sure yours still has the correct trademark heft to the case and lugs, not polished smooth and skinny to remove a lifetime of knocks.

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